Michelangelo Antonioni: It’s always impressive when a pockmarked geriatric lords over something as complex as a motion picture. But the king of Italian alienation? Not only was he 91 when he made his last work, The Dangerous Thread of Things , but he did it while partially paralyzed. A stroke hit in 1985, limiting him to the odd short and only one more feature (1995’s Beyond the Clouds , made with Wim Wenders). Of course, it would be more impressive still if these had even a shred of the brilliance of L’Avventura or Eclipse ...
Kon Ichikawa: An animator who segued into fiction ( Fire on the Plains ) and documentaries ( Tokyo Olympiad ), this jack-of-all-trades worked so feverishly that his last film, 2006’s Murder of the Inugami Clan , was released two years before his death at 92.
Sidney Lumet: Some may carp that he hasn’t cranked out a good film since 1982, but the craftsman behind Dog Day Afternoon , Network and many more is still going at 86.
Manoel de Oliveira: How old is cinema’s oldest working director? 101. The Portuguese filmmaker, whose minimalist work ( I’m Going Home , A Talking Picture ) is notoriously slow, began working in the silent era and just premiered his latest, The Strange Case of Angelica , at Cannes.
Alain Resnais: Francois Truffaut died at 52, but French New Wave filmmakers have a habit of sticking around. Robert Bresson made L’Argent at 82. Eric Rohmer made his last at 87. Godard is 79. Chris Marker and Agnes Varda are still making autobiographical docs at, respectively, 89 and 82. And Resnais, of Last Year at Marienbad , just made the delightfully nutty Wild Grass at 86.
Leni Riefenstahl: Long life was a punishment for the onetime Nazi propagandist, who was unable (for obvious reasons) to release a completed, post-Third Reich project until she was 100. One year after she unleashed the aquatic doc Underwater Impressions —she was a scuba diver into her 90s—Riefenstahl was belatedly granted sweet death.
Six Long-Running Film Franchises